By Glenn Guilbeau / GANNETT LOUISIANA
BATON ROUGE Freshman quarterback Brandon Harris threw as well as he has in his short time at LSU, and the as youthful wide receivers continue to catch the eye. But the defense is ahead of the offense after the Tigers' fourth day of practices.
'He made some of the best throws I've seen today,' LSU coach Les Miles said of Harris' efforts in the veteran-dominated morning practice Thursday. 'We're going to be able to throw the football. It's going to be real interesting to see who the guys (receivers) are that step into certain plays and have a frequency on the field. I've got to be real honest with you, I like our talent.'
The defense is winning, though.
'I think our defense is ahead,' Miles said. 'I think they're ready for the situation and ready for the heat and the challenge from a good offense. The defensive line looked pretty good today. The linebackers were fast to the ball. Offensively, I think we played hard and tough, but I don't know that we quite got it done today. But that happens. Certainly happens against a good defense. We'll have enough on offense I guarantee you.'
Sophomore Travin Dural, true freshman Malachi Dupre and redshirt freshman John Diarse appear to be the top three wide receivers. The top three linebackers remain juniors Kwon Alexander and Lamar Louis on the outside and senior D.J. Welter in the middle. Safety Jamal Adams is off to the best start of all the true freshman, including tailback Leonard Fournette.
'Today's practice was really a good one,' Miles said. 'Really had some of our best players not all of them but some of our best players were put together, and it's competitive. And we save the heat of the day for some of the most important work, so the situation is tough. It's hot. There's noise. Can't hear. And it's two of the best talented teams. I really enjoy how our teams played.'
Sophomore cornerbacks Tre'Davious White and Rashard Robinson have picked up where they left off last season as true freshman starters.
'They were coming last year,' Miles said. 'I think they just can't wait for fall to be honest. They're looking forward to making the plays that they came here to make.'
Sophomore defensive tackle Christian LaCouture practiced well. He and junior Quentin Thomas are expected to start in place of NFL rookies Ego Ferguson and Anthony Johnson. But look for redshirt freshman Frank Herron to play a lot at defensive tackle if he does not start.
'Frank Herron is a beast,' Miles said. 'Big, strong and a fast man. I think he's learning and coming to play. And there are some guys who made some really nice plays today that when I go look at this film I'll probably be pro some other guys. It was really a good day. It's like this. When the defense does well, that offense will have to answer. And so that's the challenge at this point.'
The next challenge is contact practices as the Tigers will put on shoulder pads and full gear for the first time for Friday's first full squad workout at 9:25 a.m.
'Yeah, the tempo of practice is going to change,' Miles said. 'These practices were teaching in nature. There was not a real emphasis on the physicality, although this was a very physical practice today. What will happen when we get to the pads is there will be a little bit more emphasis on the physicality. And there won't be as many reps. We'll have to speed the tempo of the practice up.'
MILES FAVORS BIG FIVE AUTONOMY: Miles spoke in approval of the newfound autonomy for the big five conferences shortly before the NCAA on Thursday voted for such a plan, 16-2, at the NCAA headquarters in Indianapolis.
'To me, I think it's a quality decision to allow like teams to be governed by like rules,' Miles said. 'I think the five major conferences should have some say.'
The big five are the Southeastern Conference, the Atlantic Coast, the Big Ten, the Big 12 and the Pac-12. The new structure still has to clear a 60-day veto period by NCAA members.
'I recognize the premises by which it was always done,' said Miles, who was an assistant coach at Michigan in the Big Ten in the 1980s and '90s and was a head coach at Oklahoma State in the Big 12 from 2001-04. 'In a football job over time, you realize that the NCAA was governing a wide group of schools. It's very difficult for them to come up with rules that really fit everybody.'
The new structure would allow for student-athletes in the big five to receive payments in addition to their scholarship.
'I think it's imperative,' Miles said. 'I think there's an inequity issue. I think it's fair and safe to say that those five conferences have advantages.'